WASHINGTON DC, USA: US President Joe Biden has asked Afghanistan’s leaders to fight for their homeland as the Taliban gains control of more provincial capitals in the country.
“Afghan leaders have to come together,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, adding the Afghan troops outnumber the Taliban and must want to fight.
“They have got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.”
Biden said he does not regret his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. He said Washington has spent more than $1 trillion over 20 years and lost thousands of soldiers.
He said the US continues to provide significant air support, food, equipment and salaries to Afghan forces.
The Taliban seized nine provincial capitals out of 34 in the country.
The fall of the capitals of Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces to the northeast and Farah province to the west put increasing pressure on the country’s central government to stem the tide of the advance.
The group has captured the provincial capitals Faizabad, Farah, Pul-e-Khumri, Sar-e-Pul, Sheberghan, Aybak, Kunduz, Taluqan and Zaranj.
The Taliban has already gained vast parts of rural Afghanistan since launching a series of offensives in May to coincide with the start of the final withdrawal of foreign forces.
A senior European Union official said on Tuesday that Taliban forces now control more than 65% of Afghanistan, threaten to take 11 provincial capitals and seek to deprive Kabul of its traditional support from national forces in the north.
In Qatar, peace talks continue as part of an effort by the international community to bring stability and security to Afghanistan.
If the current round of talks is successful, there might be an announcement of intra-Afghan peace talks.
A spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha the group is committed to the path of negotiation and does not want the talks to collapse.
The US has been carrying out some air raids to support government troops. Department of Defence spokesman John Kirby said the raids were having a “kinetic” effect on the Taliban but acknowledged limitations.
“Nobody has suggested here that air strikes are a panacea, that will solve all the problems of the conditions on the ground. We’ve never said that,” Kirby said.
Taliban and government officials confirmed that the armed group have overrun several provincial capitals in recent days in the north, west and south.
Gulam Bahauddin Jailani, head of the Afghan national disaster authority, said fighting was going on in 25 of 34 provinces and 60,000 families had been displaced over the past two months, with most seeking refuge in Kabul.
Six EU member states warned the bloc’s executive against halting deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers arriving in Europe, fearing a possible replay of a 2015-2016 crisis over the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers, mainly from the Middle East.